Jul 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP presidential hopefuls roll out flashy prizes to incentivize donors

Image of presidential candidates Doug Burgum, Vivek Ramaswamy and Francis Suarez next to each other.

Photos: Scott Olson/Getty Images; Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images; Mario Tama/Getty Images

Long shot Republican presidential candidates are dangling flashy prizes as incentives for supporters to donate to their campaigns, even if it's a dollar.

The big picture: A sweepstakes for free college tuition, $20 gift cards and a 10% cut of any money raised are all on the table as outsider candidates fight to make the Republican National Committee debate stage.

  • One requirement to qualify for the August debate is 40,000 donors, including at least 200 unique donors in each of 20 stages, so candidates are coming up with novel ways to boost their small-dollar donor bases.
  • "One of the things that we've been struggling with as a party is how do we become more effective online fundraisers, because the tactics we had been using were starting to get a little stale," veteran Republican digital strategist Eric Wilson told Axios.
  • "It's not a surprise that these are the more unconventional candidates trying these things out," he said.

Zoom in: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez became the latest candidate to join the experimentation on Thursday, when the super PAC supporting his campaign, SOS America, announced a sweepstakes for anybody who donates $1 to win a free year of college tuition.

  • Suarez also announced that anybody who sends $1 via Venmo will be entered into a raffle to win front row tickets to see Lionel Messi's Major League Soccer debut with Inter Miami CF.
  • Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy last week rolled out a fundraising scheme that will give supporters a 10% cut of the total money they raise for his campaign.
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum promised $20 gift cards to 50,000 people who donate $1 to his campaign.

The Republican National Committee did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

What to watch: The novel fundraising approaches may stick around through the campaign, Wilson said, especially if any prove to be successful.

  • "Each campaign is facing its own own challenges, so I think you'll start to see continued experimentation and these debate requirements are going to keep increasing, right?"
  • "The goal is that you keep going with your online fundraising," he said.

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